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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Sep 6;102(36):12742-7. Epub 2005 Aug 24.

Physics and evolution of thermophilic adaptation.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Analysis of structures and sequences of several hyperthermostable proteins from various sources reveals two major physical mechanisms of their thermostabilization. The first mechanism is "structure-based," whereby some hyperthermostable proteins are significantly more compact than their mesophilic homologues, while no particular interaction type appears to cause stabilization; rather, a sheer number of interactions is responsible for thermostability. Other hyperthermostable proteins employ an alternative, "sequence-based" mechanism of their thermal stabilization. They do not show pronounced structural differences from mesophilic homologues. Rather, a small number of apparently strong interactions is responsible for high thermal stability of these proteins. High-throughput comparative analysis of structures and complete genomes of several hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria revealed that organisms develop diverse strategies of thermophilic adaptation by using, to a varying degree, two fundamental physical mechanisms of thermostability. The choice of a particular strategy depends on the evolutionary history of an organism. Proteins from organisms that originated in an extreme environment, such as hyperthermophilic archaea (Pyrococcus furiosus), are significantly more compact and more hydrophobic than their mesophilic counterparts. Alternatively, organisms that evolved as mesophiles but later recolonized a hot environment (Thermotoga maritima) relied in their evolutionary strategy of thermophilic adaptation on "sequence-based" mechanism of thermostability. We propose an evolutionary explanation of these differences based on physical concepts of protein designability.

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